Energy and Sustainable Chemistry

Chemistry is pivotal for informing scientific strategies and underpinning clean and green sustainable technologies that improve our environment and mitigate climate change.

One of the greatest set of challenges of the 21st century is associated with addressing the issues of sustainable, clean and affordable future energy provision for both the developed and developing worlds. There is, however, a major conundrum; in order to improve air quality, reduce environmental pollution and mitigate global warming and climate change, this set of challenges must be achieved by reducing global dependence on coal, oil and gas, the very fuels that have powered the Industrial Revolution and established the developed world.

And so, as the global demand for energy continues to grow, it is increasingly critical to develop more efficient methods for the production, storage and utilisation of energy, together with cleaner, more sustainable methods for the synthesis of chemicals and materials and the production of existing and new technologies.

Image illustrating energy chemistry

Tackling these issues requires a multifaceted approach that ranges from the curiosity-driven and fundamental to the strategic and applied. Chemistry at Oxford tackles the challenges at all these levels:

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry are studying fundamental and complex properties of materials that are relevant to novel, renewable energy systems, developing new concepts in catalysis, and establishing new methodologies for a broad range of cleaner chemical syntheses. Examples of fundamental studies include the investigation of the properties and behaviour of materials for batteries, supercapacitors and photovoltaics; these drive innovation from the bottom up and offer possibilities for step changes in energy device performance. Other areas of research within the Department include the design of new nanoscale catalysts for fuel cells and sustainable chemical synthesis, which coupled with surface science studies of their function, pinpoint opportunities for substantial gains in efficiency. Sustainable chemical synthesis is also advanced by development of catalysts based on abundant elements, of atom-efficient chemical synthesis, and of synthetic pathways based on benign reagents and cleaner reaction conditions.

This research is supported by the Research Councils UK and by numerous industrial partnerships and collaborations with the Department of Chemistry. A number of spin out companies from the Department have been established based around energy and sustainable chemistry.

Energy and Sustainable Chemistry crosses many themes within the Department of Chemistry that include Catalysis, Synthesis, Kinetics, Dynamics and Mechanism, Advanced Materials and Interfaces, Innovative Measurement and Photon Science, and Theory and Modelling of Complex Systems.